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The sequential occurrence of three layers of smooth muscle layers (SML) in human embryos and fetus is not known. Here, we investigated the process of gut SML development in human embryos and fetuses and compared the morphology of SML in fetuses and neonates. The H&E, Masson trichrome staining, and Immunohistochemistry were conducted on 6–12 gestation week human embryos and fetuses and on normal neonatal intestine. We showed that no lumen was seen in 6–7th gestation week embryonic gut, neither gut wall nor SML was developed in this period. In 8–9th gestation week embryonic and fetal gut, primitive inner circular SML (IC-SML) was identified in a narrow and discontinuous gut lumen with some vacuoles. In 10th gestation week fetal gut, the outer longitudinal SML (OL-SML) in gut wall was clearly identifiable, both the inner and outer SML expressed α-SMA. In 11–12th gestation week fetal gut, in addition to the IC-SML and OL-SML, the muscularis mucosae started to develop as revealed by α-SMA immune-reactivity beneath the developing mucosal epithelial layer. Comparing with the gut of fetuses of 11–12th week of gestation, the muscularis mucosae, IC-SML, and OL-SML of neonatal intestine displayed different morphology, including branching into glands of lamina propria in mucosa and increased thickness. In conclusions, in the human developing gut between week-8 to week-12 of gestation, the IC-SML develops and forms at week-8, followed by the formation of OL-SML at week-10, and the muscularis mucosae develops and forms last at week-12.
Intestinal atresia (IA), a common cause of neonatal intestinal obstruction, is a developmental defect, which disrupts the luminal continuity of the intestine. Here, we investigated (i) the process of lumen formation in human embryos; and (ii) how a defective lumen formation led to IA. We performed histological and histochemical study on 6–10 gestation week human embryos and on IA septal regions. To investigate the topology of embryonic intestine development, we conducted 3D reconstruction. We showed that a 6–7th gestation week embryonic gut has no lumen, but filled with mesenchyme cells and vacuoles of a monolayer of epithelial cells. A narrow gut lumen was formed by gestation week-9, the gut was filled with numerous vacuoles of different sizes, some vacuoles were merging with the developing embryonic gut wall. At gestation week-10, a prominent lumen was developed, only few vacuoles were present and were merging with the intestine wall. At IA septal regions, vacuoles were located in the submucous layer, covered by a single layer of epithelium without glandular structure, and surrounded with fibrous tissue. The mucosal epithelium was developed with lamina propria and basement membrane, but the submucosa and the longitudinal smooth muscle layers were not properly developed. Hence, the vacuoles in IA septum could represent a remnant of vacuoles of embryonic gut. In conclusion, the fusion of vacuoles with the developing intestine wall associates with the disappearance of vacuoles and gut lumen formation in human embryos, and perturbation of these developmental events could lead to IA.
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